ABEM President Responds to EPM Critique Calling for Greater Transparency

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Dear Editor,

In his opinion column, Nicholas Genes, MD, PhD, maintains that ABEM should set an example of transparency, particularly financial transparency. We believe we have. ABEM complies with all federal reporting requirements, making detailed Form 990 financial information available to anyone. At the recent 2017 ACEP Council, ABEM presented distributions of assets and expenses, and our Annual Report will include that information, plus detailed tables and graphs about ABEM’s assets, revenue sources, and expense distributions.

ABEM stands by its fiscal decisions. Since 2008, the stock market tripled, and so have ABEM’s holdings. The result has allowed ABEM to hold fees fixed the past six years, which has saved ABEM-certified physicians $1.24 million. The new, computer-based Oral Examination is extremely expensive, but the additional cost has not been passed on, saving early career physicians $1.3 million every year.


ABEM’s largest expense (about 40 percent) is allocated to staff – not surprising, as staff helps develop, administer, score, and report examination results. ABEM has not gone on a “hiring spree” or given “everyone…big raises.” ABEM has 41 employees, and has grown at the rate of one person per year over the past eight years to address the annual growth in our specialty. ABEM’s compensation is benchmarked by independent consultants, with physician pay based on Association of American Medical Colleges indices.

ABEM receives over 20,000 survey responses from emergency physicians every year and we read every one. We publish many of our surveys – the good and the bad – to provide the Emergency Medicine community helpful information. ABEM recently reached out to every ACEP state chapter and the leadership of AAEM and ACEP, for ideas about MOC.

To suggest that ABEM is doing “what everyone else is doing” is incorrect. ABEM is proud of the good work of our 19 volunteer directors and 500 physician volunteers. We welcome continued conversation about how ABEM can be in greater service to the physicians in the greatest specialty in medicine.


Terry Kowalenko, MD
ABEM President


Dr. Kowalenko is the President of the American Board of Emergency Medicine.

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